After another prosecution folly Farinas is a breath of fresh air
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-02-09
If ever you have a pressing need for a lawyer, the likes of the Senate Impeachment Trial’s prosecutors — the very ones who have been making a series of fumbles — should be the last that you should enlist. These fumblers are capable of getting you a life term for a simple violation of the jaywalking law.

If the numerous fumbles of the prosecutors were not enough to raise your blood pressure, the latest boner from the House of Representatives Committee on Justice, the very same committee that formed the prosecution panel in the Senate Impeachment Trial of Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice (CJ) Renato Corona, could give you a stroke. In a move that defies logic and common sense, the House Committee on Justice endorsed to the House Plenary the impeachment case against SC Associate Justice Mar del Castillo.

Going for a second impeachment case would have been understandable if the prosecution in the CJ impeachment trial was doing a splendid job. However, as we all saw it on television and in living color – the successes in bringing to the fore vital pieces of evidence seemed more like an “act of God” than the result of prosecution competence and efficiency.

One such “act of God” came in the form of a Senator from Iloilo, Senator-Judge Frank Drilon, who accidentally tripped the SC clerk of court to present the controversial SALN (Statement of Assets and Liabilities) of the CJ. Other such “acts of God” came in the form of Senator-Judges Ralph Recto and non-lawyer Serge Osmena. The emergence of Prosecutor Rudy Farinas appears to be another “act of God” to save the prosecution.

Representative Niel Tupas Jr. epitomizes the prosecution hard uphill struggle to disengage both its feet from its mouth. On at least two occasions, Lead Prosecutor Tupas surrendered two vital points to the defense panel without a fight. Tupas accepted the normal criminal rules of evidence when he should have insisted on liberality instead. Then he later admitted that the CJ was entitled to presumption of innocence when the CJ himself already penned a Supreme Court decision that the burden of proof shifts to the respondent when unexplained wealth has already been discovered.

There are many ramifications to that announcement last Tuesday that the House Justice Committee had endorsed the Justice del Castillo impeachment case to the Plenary for further deliberation. The del Castillo impeachment case would have lapsed if they didn’t endorse it to the Plenary. Weighing the potential fallout between allowing the case to lapse while in the House Justice Committee versus endorsing it to the Plenary, it’s extremely difficult to see the gain from the latter action taken.

First to consider is the impression that endorsement makes in the public mind. People who have grown wearily accustomed to seeing Rep. Tupas et al move from one prosecution fumble to another, just cannot see the logic in seeking a second impeachment case to prosecute. This is sheer folly and as idiotic as Adolf Hitler’s opening a second front during World War II when he attacked Russia. Other than that, this move for a second impeachment case while that of the CJ is being tried reeks of the “vindictiveness” that the CJ camp has been trying to peddle as the “real” reason why the CJ is now on trial.

The CJ camp has never scored with that assertion that the impeachment trial was a reprisal for the adverse SC ruling against Hacienda Luisita, prized possession of the family of President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy). Even P-Noy appointees and allies in the SC voted against Hacienda Luisita, so there’s clearly no basis for singling out the CJ for that decision. Thanks now to this “Larry-Moe-and-Curly-Joe” act of Tupas et al, the vindictiveness spiel might finally get some traction. That’s akin to shooting your foot while it’s stuck in your mouth.
The other major downside of this second impeachment front is the different route that the del Castillo took versus that of the CJ. When 188 Representatives signed the CJ impeachment case, it was immediately elevated to the Senate. The CJ was quick to cry foul, saying that no due process was accorded and the CJ’s side was never heard at all. It boggles the imagination that Tupas et al couldn’t see something this glaring even when this stares them in the face.

Another point that may have been overlooked by the House Justice Committee is that as prosecutors, they committed to the Senate Impeachment Court that they don’t have any more impeachment cases to elevate to the Senate this year. This was the result of the previous week’s discussion that the impeachment process takes a heavy toll on the regular business of the Senate, a valid point. This is also why only one impeachment case per year can be filed against a public official.

Former Senator Rene Saguisag is of the opinion that the case of Associate Justice Mar del Castillo is one of wrongdoing but it’s not an impeachable offense. A rap on the knuckle perhaps, a suspension if you will, but not an impeachment is merited.

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